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Reader Comments (4)

Posted: Aug 14th 2009 7:21PM (Unverified) said

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I'm a little fuzzy on the whole celebrity likeness stuff. I understand 100% about brand names and styles copied from real world trademarks and all, but does anyone truly OWN their own likeness. I doubt Angelina Jolie is going to sue anyone for selling avatars that are meant to look like her. And as long as the seller doesn't have her in an identifiable outfit like the Tomb Raider garb, I don't see how LL can stop creators from selling avies that look like real people. An avatar that looks like Wall-E shouldn't be sold because it infringes on Disney's TM, but if it looks like Barack Obama in a suit I don't see what the problem is. How do the Obama mask sellers get away with it every Halloween in the real world? Other than that the move by LL makes complete sense, and I appreciate the time we have to make adjustments.

Oh and I noticed the way things are worded, not only does this affect the listings on Xstreet but also includes the items in-world. See this from the FAQ they set up in the Knowledgebase:

Do the Listing Guidelines apply to inworld content as well as listings on Xstreet SL?
The Listing Guidelines -- and especially the new branding guidelines -- apply to Xstreet SL listings as well as the content in Second Life that is associated with the listings.

Posted: Aug 14th 2009 10:13PM (Unverified) said

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The new guidelines display such a fundamental lack of real knowledge about IP law that it makes me think it was cobbled together by a group of engineers over beers and nachos. Using Barack Obama as an example is so completely wrong it boggles the mind. He is a political figure. Political figures are completely fair game when it comes to using their images or portraying them in any light one feels like.

As to Angelina Jolie, that's a little bit fuzzier. Creating an avatar that looks like her would likely be exempt because it is an artistic representation. However, using a photograph of her and creating a poster or some other item that appears to be branded or authorized by AJ would not be allowed even under fair use.

Making sneakers that look like Nikes would be fine as long as they didn't carry the "swoosh". Linden Labs needs to have some real IP lawyers revisit this.

Posted: Aug 14th 2009 11:26PM (Unverified) said

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Even the most cursory Google search turns up THOUSANDS of Barack Obama masks and costumes, to say nothing of commemorative plates and other useless knicknacks. Presidents have no expectation of privacy, and their likenesses are a matter of historical record and in the public domain.

The new rules talk about "famous" people, with no distinction between living and dead, public and private. Would a Charlie Chaplin avatar be removed? Marilyn Monroe? Erroll Flynn? George Washington? King Henry VIII? Moses?

This portion of the new rules is in complete opposition with first life experience, and therefore they are arbitrary and in fact, needlessly and stupidly cruel.

Sounds like another cowardly policy created by hyper-cautious lawyers from that overly-litigious wasteland that is the entertainment industry. Shame on you Lab.

Posted: Aug 15th 2009 12:15AM (Unverified) said

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Actually, the whole issue of celebrity likenesses is a tangled one. You see, things like the California Celebrity Rights Act (Civil Code section 3344.1) only applies to *dead* people.

So, for example, if you made an Elvis avatar then yes, you'd be breaching the rights of the Elvis estate -- licensing the image of Elvis is a multi-million-dollar earner (Ditto for John Lennon and Lady Diana).

Now, let's make things more complicated, because technically there's some obscure (as well as some not-so-obscure) state and federal statutes that allow nobody to profit from your *living* appearance other than yourself (whether or not you are a public person or celebrity). These statutes are so full of holes, exceptions, amendments and whatnot that billions of dollars of magazines are produced every year with photographs of celebs -- that were formerly unlawful but now exist largely through loopholes and legal grey-areas.

So, the rules for using the appearance of a living person and a dead person are different. The ones for living people are such an awful mess, I don't know that I could even puzzle out if avatar representations would be legal or not (compared to say, Halloween masks or magazine covers).

However, where I'm on *marginally* firmer ground is with California, Civil Code 3344 which applies to living persons:

3344. (a) Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice,
signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products,
merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or
soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services,
without such person’s prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the
prior consent of his parent or legal guardian, shall be liable for
any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result
thereof. In addition, in any action brought under this section, the
person who violated the section shall be liable to the injured party
or parties in an amount equal to the greater of seven hundred fifty
dollars ($750) or the actual damages suffered by him or her as a
result of the unauthorized use, and any profits from the unauthorized
use that are attributable to the use and are not taken into account
in computing the actual damages. In establishing such profits, the
injured party or parties are required to present proof only of the
gross revenue attributable to such use, and the person who violated
this section is required to prove his or her deductible expenses.
Punitive damages may also be awarded to the injured party or parties.
The prevailing party in any action under this section shall also be
entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.

... it goes on at some length...

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